Chief Executive Newsletter Updates

The Farmers Club Newsletter – No. 53 – December 2022

GENERAL NEWS
 
Committee Election Result
 
As members will know, a vacancy occurred in the General Committee and I am pleased to say that there was significant interest in the position. Eventually, 4 candidates entered for the election and I am very pleased to announce that Mr Mark Riches has been successfully elected to the General Committee. My thanks go to Claire for the administrative elements, but also to Mr John Purser who kindly acted as an impartial scrutineer to ensure the casting of votes and the counting of them was correct. 
 
Finances
 
As you will be aware, after the stabilisation of the Club finances in 2021, 2022 was going to provide a benchmark as to whether we could bring the Club back to full operation generating the order of income that would not only sustain us but provide the means by which we could service our liabilities and make provision for our current membership and those of the future. 
Despite the manpower challenges that we have had (we now almost have a full team) the cost pressures we continue to have and the effects of the numerous rail strikes upon the trading business of the Club, the year has proved to be one of outstanding financial success. 
Whilst some prices to the services we provide have increased, we have, by bearing down on costs elsewhere including the imaginative use of other high quality ingredients for our menu and the hard work of the team flexing across departments when necessary, it has been a good year. None of this of course would have been possible without the support of thousands of Farmers Club members, be it by maintaining your membership, dining and celebrating here or partaking in one of our many events.  Thank you to all. 
This all means, that with the agreement of the Officers and Trustees of the Club, I will be able to repay 50% of our COVID-related loan this month and deliver a significant amount to the Trustees to invest in our Lease Renewal fund. In addition, there will be a small CAPEX project to enhance the club at the present time and I will give more detail on that early next year. 
 
Autumn Statement – Impact on the Club
 
Whilst on a macro-scale there was much content in the Chancellors Autumn statement that will affect many people across the UK, there was interesting news regarding the Governments much-vaunted revaluation of business rates which was last done in 2017 and led to some very sharp increases. This topic is very important to the Club as it is one of our major fixed annual costs. The combination of the rise of internet shopping, the fall of the high street and the lasting effects of the pandemic led to some expectation that in the hotel, retail, hospitality sector, some relief might be forthcoming. Whilst the multipliers that are applied to the basic business rate for a property remained frozen, the actual rates for Hotels and retail shops reduced significantly, but sadly for clubs and the like, increased by up to 8%. I will be appealing this decision as I am not aware of how the rating for our property was arrived at. I am relishing the challenge! 
On the upside, the Government have extended and increased the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure relief scheme from 50% to 75% for 2023-24, up to £110,000 per business – some very welcome news as the previous relief was due to end in April 2023. The scheme will now continue until April 2024 up to the capped limit. National Insurance levels have been fixed for a further 2 years but it was disappointing to see no movement in VAT bands as this would have been very helpful for the sector.
 
Guards Chapel Advent Service & Dinner at the Club
 
Over 30 members attended the above annual service at the Military Chapel in Wellington Barracks. Held in a very distinct church with a splendid history, the first service took place in May 1838 but the interior was very plain. In 1850, it was decided to restore the interior of the chapel and the distinguished architect, George Edmund Street, was commissioned to prepare plans for the construction of an apse to form a chancel and re-design the chapel in the Lombardo Byzantine style. The chapel re-opened on 25th May 1879 and as more money was subscribed, further embellishments were added as memorials. Alabaster, marble, mosaics, terra cotta, stained glass and metal work were used to continue the improvements following the pattern set by the original architect and committee.
On Sunday 18th June 1944 when disaster struck. At 11.10 am during morning service, the chapel was hit by a flying bomb which entered at the western end and exploded, killing 121 soldiers and civilians, including the Director of Music and five musicians from the Band of the Coldstream Guards. The chapel was completely destroyed with the exception of the apse, but the six silver candlesticks were unmoved by the explosion and the candles remained burning. Despite wartime restrictions, a temporary chapel was erected in a Romney Hut attached to the undamaged apse and this was used from Christmas Day 1945 until 1962 when the rebuilding began.

On completion of the Service, members returned to the Club for dinner which was filled with Christmas favourites, even some very rare Turkey!  Following dinner, Chairman John Lee introduced our eminent guest speaker General Sir Adrian Bradshaw KCB OBE who gave a truly insightful talk regarding his perception of global threats ranging from military, territorial, energy and food related issues. This was incredibly interesting stuff and such was the interest, the General even took questions at the end of his talk. A truly great evening made up of very different elements.

State Honours Dinner

Chairman John Lee hosted 40 fellow recipients of State Honours and their guests, to this annual occasion but the first we have held since 2019. This was a great evening and preceded the service held at St Paul’s Cathedral for those so honoured, the following day. Our guest of Honour was Sir Andrew McFarlane, the current President of the Family Division, and Head of Family Justice. Another very interesting speaker, who is also a Club member.

Two days after this dinner, a small group of members went to see the Opera, La Boheme at the Royal Opera House.

Subscriptions for 2023
 
There are a couple of pieces of information I would like to furnish members with. You will all receive your subscription invoices from Mark Fairbairn towards the end of November/early December – these will cover membership for 2023. Additionally and following discussion at the Membership Sub Committee and General Committee, approval was given for a further extension for 1 year, of Bubble Membership for 2023. Mark Fairbairn can be contacted for the details of this additional type of membership.

Christmas Cards
 
Claire has asked me to remind members that we still have some Christmas cards available. These can be obtained by contacting Claire direct on generaloffice@thefarmersclub.com.

U35s Festive Supper & AGM
 
During the final weekend of November the U35s embarked on a busy weekend of activity, both pleasurable and business! On the Friday evening, they held a Festive supper for 45 people and heard a really interesting speaker Carl Atkin-House, Chairman of the Institute of Agricultural Management.

FUTURE VISITS/EVENTS
 
U35s First Quarter Programme
 
The New Year is certainly starting with a flourish with a very full and diverse programme. Details of all can be found on the website in the U35s section:
 
Friday 10th February - Cupids Cocktail Making Evening, The Farmers Club
Sunday 12th February – Twickenham England v’s Italy
Friday 24th February - New Chairman’s Supper, The Farmers Club
Saturday 25th February – Saturday Social – The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theatre
Friday 17th March – St Patricks Social, The Farmers Club                                 
Saturday 25th March - U35s Hosts Agrespect, The Farmers Club

Summer Shows 2023
 
Following our 3 shows in 2021 and 7 shows in 2022, we are aiming to be back to our normal 8 shows this summer. There will be a mixture of breakfast, receptions and dinners with details of exact locations and speakers to be confirmed in the near future, so please set one or two dates aside in your diaries. It would be great to see as many members, their families and friends as possible at these popular events:

Pre-Balmoral Show Dinner - Tue 9th May at the Royal Belfast golf Club
Suffolk County Show Breakfast - Wed 31st May
Pre-Royal Highland Show Dinner - 21st Jun venue tbc
Royal Norfolk Show Reception - Wed 28th Jun
Kent County Show Reception - Fri 7th Jul 
Great Yorkshire Show Reception - Tue 11th Jul
Royal Welsh show Reception - Mon 24th Jul
Westmorland Show Reception - Wed 13th Sep

IN CLOSING 
 
It has been a monumental November and the busiest month since we finally and properly re-opened in May 2021! The Club is extremely busy across everything we do here in London and off-site. Our financial position is pretty strong and our staffing levels and recent recruitment show signs that we are almost back to normal……but not quite. A number of members have asked me why we are not open beyond 8pm in the bar on a Saturday. The answer is a simple one. Along with offering limited services on Monday also, is the only way we can achieve a balanced staff rota and provide a service for the remainder of the week. Until we are back at full manning, something has to give or we have to restrict services on another weekday. We are getting there but the labour market is tight and fewer people are staying in the hospitality business. We are looking for the right type of person for this club beyond the ability to merely be breathing and be able to stand upright! Seriously, I am confident we will return to full service shortly into the New Year – please bear with us.
 
Depending on if there is anything much to report, this could be my last newsletter of the year, and I would just like to say again, thank you for your support to the Club, myself, and most importantly to the team here, through your understanding generally and generosity of spirit in giving to the staff fund – it is much appreciated. If I don’t see you before the festive season begins, may I wish you all a very good and peaceful Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.


Best regards

Andrei Spence